Food & Drink

Chef Mauro Colagreco Talks Calf Brains and Other Secret Recipes with T+L

Three-Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco met us in Bangkok for an interview about his restaurants all over the map, including a brand-new Italian in Singapore.

Chef Mauro Colagreco in Raffles London

Chef Mauro Colagreco in Raffles London. Courtesy of Accor

By Vincent Vichit-Vadakan

Jul 1, 2022

SAYING THAT MAURO COLAGRECO is an acclaimed chef is an understatement. His first restaurant, Mirazur, located in Menton on the French-Italian border, has won every accolade under the Provençal sun, including three Michelin stars and the No. 1 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. Colagreco himself was named as the Best Cook of the Year in France. The Italo-Argentine was the first non-French ever to earn the title. He’s even a judge on a popular French cooking program. 

His other restaurants are all over the map, literally and figuratively. Ceto, just down the road from Mirazur in the direction of Monaco, opened in the oh-so oh-so Maybourne Riviera in October last year and clinched its first Michelin star just six months later. Azur has been delighting guests in Beijing for almost a decade.

Chef Mauro Colagreco with Chef Davide Garavaglia once visited Côte
Chefs Mauro Colagreco and Davide Garavaglia at Côte. Courtesy of Capella Bangkok

Contrary to popular belief, his restaurants are not all multi-course-menu, refined gastronomic experiences. “We don’t actually have much fine dining,” Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres Mauro Colagreco tells me during an interview we have in French during his recent visit to Bangkok. His name appears on relaxed brasseries and bistros around China as well as in Dubai, Macau and Paris. He has even launched several branches of Carne, a high-end, B-corp certified hamburger bar, in his native Argentina, as well as in Brussels (and, for a short time, a now-closed one in Singapore – fingers crossed for a Southeast Asian reopening somewhere soon).

And he’s not stopping there. 

A stellar performance in Bangkok

Côte by Mauro Colagreco. Courtesy of Capella Bangkok

Côte (of which Ceto, the mythological sea monster, is an anagram) by Mauro Colagreco in the Capella Bangkok opened in 2020 under the command of Colagreco’s trusted lieutenant Davide Garavaglia and immediately became one of the town’s toughest bookings. Garavaglia had spent seven years in the kitchen at Mirazur before being given the mission to bring Colagreco’s exacting standards and produce-driven vision to Thailand. 

Because of Covid-related travel restrictions, Colagreco couldn’t come to Thailand for the opening. In fact, he had to wait a year and a half before trying the food being served under his name. By that time, the restaurant had already earned its first Michelin star. 

Courtesy of Côte by Mauro Colagreco (2)

He describes that first dinner as being a very emotional experience. “The whole meal was magnifique but for the main course [chef Davide] served the pigeon dish that we used to make at Mirazur at the time when he was still there. It was such an emotion to rediscover the same flavors, 10,000 kilometers from home.”

“He knows how not to copy the recipe, but how to share our vision of gastronomy, how we cook, how to respect produce, and the importance of the marriage of flavors.” Colagreco goes on, using not a ‘royal we‘ but one that underlines the importance he places on teamwork. “[Davide] makes our cuisine, but with his own personal touch. That gives the restaurant a life of its own.”

“I chose the right person for this project,” says Colagreco with satisfaction. 

Setting Singapore on Fire

Fiamma, Capella Singapore
Fiamma. Courtesy of Capella Singapore

His newest project: the June 15th opening of Italian-inspired brasserie Fiamma (“flame” in Italian) in the Capella Singapore. The restaurant that Colagreco calls an Italian brasserie is a casual dining experience that replaces the resort’s all-day dining offering. With muted tones and eclectic furniture from architect-designers André Fu Studio, who also redesigned the resort’s guest rooms recently, the restaurant can seat 138 diners. 

“We have two pizza ovens and a grill where my Argentine side will show a little,” Colagreco says, “even if it’s Italian cuisine.” The menu covers a range of antipasti, pasta dishes, pizzas, mains and desserts, all comforting, homey foods. 

He is most proud of his Italian grandmother’s recipes that he’ll be serving. Colagreco already offers her rustic country bread in his restaurants including Mirazur and Côte, a loaf that is ripped apart in wedges at the table, the ultimate in convivial bread breaking. 

He is grinning when he talks about her pesto (“because she was from Genoa”) that appears on this menu with calamari and twisted strands of trofie, a classic Ligurian pasta shape, or her maiale grigliato, grilled pork first marinated overnight in vinegar, lemon and aromatics. 

The Pizza Chamber at Fiamm, Capella Singapore
The Pizza Chamber at Fiamma. Courtesy of Capella Singapore

Colagreco also reminisces about dishes that he hopes to add in the future. Ravioli filled with chard, spinach, parsley, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg may sound very simple, but his nonna had a couple of tricks up her sleeve: she always added a little calf brain to the filling, giving the dish a bit of iron-y richness. The ravioli came with an olive-oil-heavy tomato passata, another flavor-boosting secret of hers. 

“These are childhood memories for me. Maybe they won’t have the same meaning for you, but for me they are the best dishes in the world.”

Sponsored by Tourism New Zealand

London Calling

Further down the line, Colagreco has plans to bring his personal flair to London as well. He will open no fewer than three eateries under the roof of the highly anticipated Raffles London at The OWO. The five-star hotel has 120 rooms and suites (not counting the private residences) in the heart of Whitehall, the seat of power where many government ministries are still located. 

Chef Mauro Colagreco in Raffles London
Chef Mauro Colagreco in Raffles London at The OWO. Courtesy of Accor

Details are scarce and the restaurants, due to open along with the hotel at the end of 2022 or early 2023, don’t even officially have names yet. But Colagreco did share a few exclusive details. 

The more casual eatery will be similar to Grandcœur, his Parisian brasserie (“but not the same thing,” he hastens to add) while the fine-dining restaurant will be more focused on vegetables. “It’s not vegan, but the vegetable will be the center of each dish,” Colagreco tells me during our wide-ranging interview that, appropriately, includes a visit to a farm outside Bangkok. “There will be seafood and some meat, but they’ll be in the background.”

We can’t wait to see his spin on that. 

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